~biases in publishing

The opportunity to express oneself in print is one of the founding tenets of this country. It’s called “Freedom of Speech.”

Yet the biases out there in the publishing world could lead one to think that those controlling the printed word believe differently.

Now, before you think I’m about to go off on some political/gender/racial tangent, what I’m talking about is nothing that you’ll read in the headlines.

In fact, some of you may even laugh! And that’s okay, because there are definitely humorous aspects to the subject of my rant.

And what is the subject? Who are the victims of this publishing bias?

Why, none other than some of our oldest and darkest villians:

Vampires.

And those who write about them.

What!? Is she serious? Come on. We’ve got Twilight and its sequels, we’ve got True Blood, The Vampire Diaries – the list of vampire series in the most popular medium, that of television, seems to be one bloody show after another, and the shelves in the bookstores nearly drip red.

But I am serious. Very serious. Just try pitching something about vampires that you’ve written.

Agents. Publishers. Periodicals.

They all say the same thing in their submission guidelines.

“We love paranormal/supernatural, but don’t send us anything about vampires (or werewolves).” Some of them will include the caveat “unless it is really new and fresh” – but come on. Really now?

How new and fresh is a story of a mousy/shy/outsider girl in high school and the hot guy/Mr. Popular/top jock? I mean, girl meets boy, things get complicated, girl and boy end up together. How frickin’ new and fresh is that?

Or what about the story of someone whose friends/family/life are/is in danger from someone else who wants to expose/ruin/kill them? Or the story of one or more someones who are on a mission/lost/kidnapped that wind up in a foreign culture/land and have to fight bad guys to achieve their goal/get back home?

Get my drift? Not only do popular stories boil down to recurring themes, they are printed and sold by the millions. Why?

Because people love them. People need to step outside their own lives, even if it’s only a paragraph at a time. And they like to step into something a little familiar, and will read the same type of stories over and over. Sometimes they’ll venture from their standard reading fare and try something new, but they usually go back.

And that is just as true for readers of vampire, werewolf, and other paranormal tales. These are readers who need to move a little further away from reality than the average Joe or Joann Blow. They like the edge – a little fear, a little violence, a little blood – encased in a strong dose of the unknown or the supernatural. And for them, all those common themes, like the ones I mentioned above, take on an eerie glow when populated by the paranormal.

The other interesting fact about readers of the supernatural, ESPECIALLY vampire stories, is that they number in the millions. And millions. Worldwide. Just look at the fanbases, old and new, of classics like Dracula, or series like Ann Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles (Interview with the Vampire) and Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight.

Millions.

And what do they want when they’ve read the entire Vampire: The Masquerade  series (based on the popular role-playing game) or devoured Twilight and its sequels dozens of times?

More vampires!

Vampire popularity in this country (and many others) ebbs and flows like the tides, but it never ebbs much. Hit movies appear every 4-6 years in an unending cycle of fangs and blood.

You think the current craze for vampires will burn out? That people will tire of these mysterious, fanged beings once the Twilight movies are all done and True Blood/The Vampire Diaries are cancelled and relegated to rerun hell?

Think again. Vampires do not die natural deaths. They are eternal, which is one of the sources of our fascination with them.

The next hot property on the horizon for vampire filmdom?

Dark Shadows, a feature film based on the wildly-popular gothic soap opera that ran from 1966 to 1971.

And if you haven’t heard, you’ll never guess who is not only producing this project (he’s a huge fan of the series), but is also starring as Barnabas Collins, the resident vampire.

Johnny Depp.

And if you think Depp and this movie won’t infuse vampire popularity with new blood, you’ve been in the tomb too long.

Get ready for the next vampire wave.

Dark Shadows is scheduled to begin filming in April 2011, with a projected release date of sometime in 2012.

Agents? Publishers? I doubt any of you will read this blog, but if you were smart, you’d start looking at vampire tales again.

The craving for blood never ends, and neither will demand for stories of those who must drink it.

8 thoughts on “~biases in publishing

  1. I thought our “oldest and darkest villains” were politicians.

    I suspect that the real publishing backlash is not against vampires per se but against “it’s got a vampire” being the entirety of the story’s hook. When something becomes popular, copycats show up in hordes. The deluge of copycat stories that just aren’t any good has probably dampened agents’ appetite for the genre, and they’re trying to discourage the bad stories from getting submitted and drowning out the good ones that are surely there in the mountains of slush.

    PS will you be working SFWC again this year?

    1. Hi Peter! Good point. I have to agree with you, politicians are right up there. I’m also inclined to agree with your suspicions regarding the reams of poorly-written vamp stories.

      But getting published these days is difficult enough – industry bias just adds another hurdle to what is already a daunting process.

      I suppose I could write in a more ‘acceptable’ genre, but I prefer to write in the one that I love to read. Otherwise, for me, there’s no point in writing.

      So the only thing I can do is make what I like to write as stellar and gripping as possible, and perhaps the agents and publishers will be so taken with the stories, they won’t notice the fangs until it’s too late.

      🙂

  2. I think you are spot on with this. (And this is from a [mostly] non-vampire reader.)

    Johnny Depp? Oh yeah. Vampires will be back in a big way.

    1. Hey, Tara! Well, I’m glad that a [mostly :)] non-vampire reader can see this. Then maybe it means I’m not completely paranoid!

      With the life that Depp breathed into Jack Sparrow, and the delight he took in the evil of Sweeney Todd, what he’ll bring us to as Barnabas Collins is going to blow everyone’s socks off.

  3. I’m a non-vampire-reader, also, but I agree with your conclusions. My gripe is that, if these agents, editors, and publishers don’t like all the vampire trash out there….why did they accept those stories in the first place??? They didn’t just appear.

    Trash is trash – and throwing crappy stories out there just to grab some market share – and then complaining that there’s too much trash out there is disingenuous at best.

    I believe that the internet and self-publishing is going to transform the publishing world anyway. It will be the key to unlocking the strangle-hold that the editors and publishing houses have on writers. Then READERS will be able to tell us what stories they like best!

    (And, non-vampire-reader or not, I’ll be watching Johnny!)

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